Raccoon meat at South Carolina store must go, officials say

CHARLESTON, South Carolina Wed Mar 30, 2011 4:45pm EDT

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CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - Looking for raccoon meat? You won't find it at a country convenience store in South Carolina after state health inspectors told employees to throw out their supply.

Tipped off by a complaint, inspectors recently found the cleaned raccoon meat in plastic bags inside one of the store's coolers, along with bagged ice.

"In my 28 years with the agency, it's the first time I've heard of this," Thom Berry, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, said on Wednesday.

"My inspectors, they see all kinds of things, but this is something new even to them."

The Lucky 7 store -- located in Gadsden, near the state capital of Columbia -- removed the meat upon request, Berry said. But when inspectors went back several days later, they found it outside the building near some trash.

"We instructed the employees to bag it, pour bleach on it, tie it up and put it in the Dumpster," Berry said.

No law bans the sale of raccoon meat in South Carolina, but state and federal officials do not certify it as being safe for human consumption.

"It's kind of like squirrel," said Brett Witt, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources. "People do eat it. It's kind of on the lower end of animals. It's not as popular as deer or rabbit. There is a danger of ingesting any wild animal without proper preparation."

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Peter Bohan)

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